» Fourth Way Perspectives
    » Essays
    » Interviews
    » Working in the World
    » Meetings
    » Film Reviews
    » Book Reviews

Recommend This Page:


Fourth Way Perspectives

Gurdjieff & The New Age, Part IX
Franklin Jones & Rudi, Part I

His core teachings incorporate many of the ideas he learned from studying the Kahmir Shaivite and Advaita Vedanta schools of Hinduism, but they also contain his own original insights and opinions about both spirituality and secular culture. Many observers note that the spiritual practices and experiences typically engaged in by Adi Da and his community tended to reflect the Occult tradition or possibly a degenerate version of Guru Bhakti Yoga (guru worship), more than the "nondualism" emphasized in much of his written material.... In 1983 he predicted that before he died all of humanity (whom he called "five billion slugs") would acknowledge him, and said that if he had not come to Earth all of humanity would have been destroyed.

Adi Da was considered a controversial figure due to persistent accusations that he was having sex with large numbers of devotees, drinking obsessively, abusing drugs, engaging in incidents of violence against women, and financially exploiting his followers. Critics claim these activities were primarily a reflection of Adi Da's own personal desires, preferences and character flaws, and were generally engaged in with little regard for their impact on others. Some claim that their consent to participate with Adi Da was gained through fraud, deception, or cognitive dissonance. Others state that they were harmed or traumatized by his abuses. Adi Da consistently claimed that all his activities were forms of selfless spiritual teaching or "crazy wisdom," designed to reflect devotees' own tendencies back to them and thereby accelerate their spiritual development.... In 1985, tensions escalated when a number of ex-devotees requested an audience with Adi Da to air grievances, and he refused to communicate with them. As a result, various lawsuits were filed against Adi Da, his organization, and former members. Adi Da himself refused to respond to any of the charges made against him at that time, preferring to withdraw into seclusion in Fiji during the controversy and allow devotees to defend him. He finally emerged from seclusion once the media attention faded and the lawsuits had been settled, only to fall into despair and feelings of failure that contributed to this suffering a major breakdown in 1986. This breakdown was later explained by Adi Da as an incident of death and resurrection that he called the "Divine Emergence."

—Lake County News, December 7, 2008

When Knee of Listening: The Early Life and Radical Spiritual Teachings of Franklin Jones was published it carried on its back cover three strong endorsements. Said Alan Watts, one of the luminaries of the New Age:

"It is obvious, from all sorts of subtle details, that he knows what IT's all about... a rare being. He is a perfect and authentic manifestation of eternal energy of the universe, and thus is no longer disposed to be in conflict with himself."

Said the occult writer Israel Regardie:

"A great teacher with a dynamic ability to awaken in his listeners something of the Divine Reality in which he is grounded, with which he is identified and which in fact he is. He is a man of both the East and the West; perhaps in him they merge and are organized as the One that he is."

Said the great yogi Swami Muktananda:

"Chiti Shakti, the Kundalini, which brings about Siddha Yoga, is activated in you. The Inner Self which is the secret of Vedanta, the basis of religion, the realization of which is the ultimate object of human life, is awakened in you."

The book, published in 1972, could not have been launched at a more fortuitous time, for only two years before three spiritual teachers—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Chögyam Trungpa and Swami Muktananda—had first come to America and ignited the spiritual craving and search among young and old alike. And here was an American master, only 33 years old, who had reached the pinnacle of spiritual realization. That his rise thereafter was meteoric was not surprising, but few if any could have foreseen his subsequent fall and withdrawal to an island sanctuary where he lived the life of a self-exiled king among his devotees.

Born November 3, 1939, and raised in Queens, New York, Franklin Albert Jones early on had a number of experiences with what he termed "the Bright." It was an "Energy of Love-Bliss," he says, which his parents were insensitive to and refused. Family life was not harmonious. He describes the situation as the interaction of "quiet, long-suffering, fathered mother. Emotional, violent, elaborate father-boy. Crazy, secluded, independent son." A sister, Joanne, was born when he was eight years old but was too young to be included in his life. Jones was brought up in the Lutheran Church and became an acolyte. He might easily have had an academic career, for he received a degree in philosophy from Columbia University and then an M.A. in English literature from Stanford University in the fall of 1962. He, like Ken Kesey (who gave his own account in his One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and many others, volunteered as a subject for drug experiments at the nearby Veterans Administration Hospital. During a six- week period he was given LSD, mescalin and psilocybin. The Sufi saint Meher Baba said that "LSD is America's Jesus Christ," and so it was in terms of opening people up to higher dimensions of reality, but for many it simply enlarged their narcissism.

Gigantic Thumbs

Jones and his girlfriend, Nina, went to live in a cabin in the mountains above Santa Cruz where she supported them while after he meditated, did drugs and tried to make sense out of what he had experienced by immersing himself in books of hermetic wisdom. As a child he had seizures in which he would become delirious and feel "a mass of gigantic thumbs coming down from above and pressing into some form of myself that was much larger than my physical body." During his drug experiments this "thumbs" experience recurred, and when he allowed it they "completely entered my form. They appeared like tongues or parts of a force coming from above. And when they had entered deep into my body the magnetic or energic [sic] balances of my being appeared to reverse. . . . [Then] I seemed to reside in a totally different body, which also contained the physical body." He eventually came to the conclusion that what controlled him and everyone else was "a largely unconscious or preconscious logic or structure, a motivating drama or myth, [which] acted only as an arbitrary limitation, and it never appeared directly in the mind or in our works and actions... it needed to become conscious in each of us before any creative work or freedom was possible on its basis or beyond it." He came to recognize his own myth as the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, which he characterized as being about "the universally adored child of the gods, who rejected the loved-one and every form of love and relationship, who was finally condemned to the contemplation of his own image, until he suffered the fact of eternal separation and died in infinite solitude."

Rudi & the "Force"

After two years in the mountains he realized that he needed a teacher. He had a vision that he would meet his teacher in New York in an Oriental art store. And so in June 1964 he and Nina left for New York. Searching the streets of Manhattan, that September he came upon Rudi Oriental Arts on Seventh Avenue just above the East Village. When Albert Rudolph, a short, heavyset moon-faced man known as Rudi and later Swami Rudrananda, approached, Jones weighed over 230 pounds, though he was not nearly as large as Rudi. A self-described "libertine, drinker, drug user, a useless and impractical dreamer, a passionate madman," Jones felt uncomfortable and foolish but immediately felt the Rudi's "Force," or Shakti, as he would call it. Jones asked him what he taught and was told "Kundalini Yoga."

Gurdjieff, Fourth Way, Rudi, Adi Da, Franklin Jones

"Are you an adept at this yoga," Jones asked.

"You don't teach it if you can't do it," he was told.

Rudi asked if he worked.

"No, I have just been writing, and I live with my girlfriend. She works," Jones said.

Rudi told to him get a job and come back in six months or a year and walked away.

That night Jones wrote Rudi a long letter and had Nina deliver it to him the next day. Where Rudi's behavior had been brusque with Jones, he was very warm and open with Nina and immediately accepted her as a student.

The next day Jones again went to see him and again was told to get a job. Within a few weeks, he was also accepted.

Rudi had been in the Gurdjieff Work some five years or so before leaving, and so much of what Jones was given early on was on observing and working with self-pity, negativity and self-imagery with an emphasis on making efforts.

Jones' main interest was in Rudi's ability to transmit Force (this capitalization of words would in time, as with his The Dawn Horse Testament, make much of his writing unreadable except for his most ardent devotees).

Complete Embrace

Class began about 7:30 in the evening. Rudi sat on a raised platform. His chair was a large mental trunk covered by a bearskin. Incense would be lit next to him and, with the devotees spread out before him, either sitting in yogic postures or on folding chairs, the class would begin. He would speak about some aspect of the Force.

I give a higher energy directly to you. The first or second time that I open to a new student, a spiritual energy flows from both of us and comes together as in a complete embrace. There is nothing sexual about it. The meeting occurs in another dimension. But it symbolizes the beginning of a real relationship between us. Once this connection is established, you have only to absorb the energy that comes from me like water from a faucet. This is much easier than having to extract energy out of the atmosphere through your own efforts. But it is still work.

Gurdjieff, Fourth Way, Adi Da, Franklin Jones

Afterward, sitting up straight in a lotus posture, he would close his eyes. When his eyes opened Jones said "they appeared to be deep set and very wide. Rudi's eyes would then move from person to person in the room, focusing on each one for a few seconds or a minute or two. The idea was to relax and surrender to Rudi so the energy could be passed or ignited. At the end of the class, he might give another talk, saying:

A teacher is really a servant—something many teachers would rather forget. In some Buddhist scripture it says, "The Buddha is a shit stick." It can't be put more graphically than that. Just because a higher force flows in a genuine teacher, does not mean he is to be worshipped. His function is to serve the student's potential. Most teachers demand a great deal of respect, which is correct, if it is the cosmic force that is respected. But it too easily shifts into honoring the personality of the teacher. It requires a willingness on the teacher's part to surrender the subtle advantages of his role, for the relationship to remain mutually productive. No situation, no matter how satisfactory, is an end in itself. It is all material for surrender. You build to give away. Otherwise, what starts as creation ends as a prison you have constructed for yourself.

Devotees would then line up, as Rudi passed from one to another giving each a big bear hug.

Rudi was 11 years older than Jones, born to a poor Jewish family in Brooklyn whose father abandoned the family when he was young. His mother was quite violent toward him.

Great Passions & Appetites

Jones came to see Rudi as "obviously a man of great passions and appetites, a figure of Gargantuan vitality and huge pleasures, and a very strong and masculine (but also demonstratively homosexual) character." The stronger and more confident Jones became the more he came into conflict with his teacher. "Rudi's tendency to command an exclusive and limiting right for himself [as a unique source]," said Jones, "became a source of conflict between us, although I never outwardly manifested that conflict until the day I left him."


1. Quiet, long-suffering, fathered mother. Franklin Jones, 1992 edition of The Knee of Listening (Los Angeles: Dawn Horse Press, 1992 edition), p. 34.

2. Drug experiments. Jones, Knee of Listening, 1972 edition, pp. 17-18.

3. A mass of gigantic thumbs. Jones, pp. 20-21.

4. A largely unconscious or preconscious logic or structure. Jones, p. 16.

5. Universally adored child of the gods. Jones, p. 26.

6. Libertine, drinker. Jones, 1992 edition of The Knee of Listening, p. 140.

7. Are you an adept at this yoga? Jones, pp. 99–100.

8. A man of great passions and appetites. Jones, 1992 edition of The Knee of Listening, p. 158.

9. Rudi's tendency. Jones, p. 52.